Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement

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$20K House VIII (Dave's House)

Rural Studio. $20K House VIII (Dave's House)

ANDREW FREEAR: My name is Andrew Freear. I'm the director of the Rural Studio. The program takes architecture students from Auburn University into a very rural part of West Alabama, and asks them to design and build for relatively underserved communities.

With the $20K House, what we're hoping to do is to make a home that is durable, efficient, buildable, accessible, reproducible, and gives an occupant pride. The $20,000 would be split. About $12,000 to $13,000 goes in construction materials, and then the rest of the money, goes in labor and profit, for a builder.

We maximize this $20,000, by testing it every year. We build one house each year. They are test houses, so we don't expect the client to pay for them. And then, in return, they allow us to watch how they occupy it. And so, each year, we've tried to better the previous year's house. The version in the exhibit that you see is “Dave’s House,” number eight. We like calling the houses after people, because it gives us a humility, and a humanity.

We really believe in learning from the structures that were built locally in the past, that have lasted 150 years. And most of those homes have very high ceilings. And they survived without air conditioning. We have both ceiling fans, and we have high ceilings, 10-foot ceilings. It's a huge luxury. It makes the house feel as if it's not small.

Dave's house is, some people would call it a shotgun house. It has all of its doors in a straight line. What that helps to do is maximize ventilation. In addition to all of that, we believe in the front porch. At least 60 to 70 percent of the year, in West Alabama, you can actually sit outdoors. You can be outside.

And I think what this house does is it offers an opportunity for people to live within their means, that they can afford a modest, but really quite beautiful house, that is extremely minimal, but also really quite spacious, and extremely well-built.